I wrote an article for my college newspaper recently about my experience last semester. When I read it today I was a bit shocked with how much they changed. It felt weird, like I was reading someone else’s article. It just didn’t sound like me. I feel like I’ve been edited out of my own article. I want to be angry but I know this is just how media works; that doesn’t make it okay though. Along with the cuts and edits changing the message of the article (my ending was stronger), they changed the tone and voice as well. Ew. Haha Below is my original article with the major cuts in italics.
Being homeless is not something you usually want to admit, especially at Elon, but it is an issue that needs more attention and awareness on campus. For most people, it is not even on their radar. It seems strange to think of Elon students sleeping in cars, but the truth is, it happens, and it’s a more widespread problem than you might think. Homelessness doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a process. For me, the process started late last August when I received an email from the Bursars office that basically told me I needed to write a huge check if I wanted to come back in the Fall. I’ve received this email every year, but while our cost of attendance continued to rise every year, my financial aid package slowly shrunk, and now that I was starting my senior year, I was out of money and out of options. After being tossed between the Office of Financial Planning and the Bursar’s Office for days, it was decided that in order to stay at Elon, I would need to find a place to live off-campus, which for me meant finding a job. Taking seven classes and working a part-time job is not easy, so I was sort of relieved when I lost that job due to my limited availability. I was not so relieved when I realized this meant I had to move out of my house. With nowhere else to go, I found myself, at the end of October, moving back home to Raleigh, NC.
I knew trying to finish the semester would be difficult with a two hour commute every day, but I didn’t have any choice. I woke up early to make it to Elon for my 8:00AM class, and drove back to Raleigh late at night. To save gas, I slept on friend’s couches or in the library. My closet, bookshelf, and cupboard was the back seat of my car. I didn’t have a meal plan, so I became really good at improvising meals. I attended free events with food, found faculty lounges with coffee makers, and made friends with dining hall workers who occasionally gave me leftovers. I made being homeless a science. I planned out my days and worked out the details, so that I could stay in school. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving Break that I finally found a place to stay. My church has a program that allows families to “adopt” college students so they can have home cooked meals and a place to stay during holidays; I was in need of both. When they learned of my situation, my adopted family invited me to rent out their spare room for the rest of the year, an invitation I accepted gratefully.
Along with the physical and psychological effects of this homelessness, my academic performance also suffered. It should come as no surprise that students cannot do well when their basic needs are not met. I was treading water for weeks and I felt like I was drowning. For me, being homeless affected me so much as to change the course of my college career. That’s why this issue is so important. It’s not just a place to stay; it’s giving students the foundation they need to reach their potential while in college. I know I have not been the only homeless student at Elon. I wasn’t homeless for long, only about four weeks, but what long weeks those were. I can only imagine how much more difficult that semester would have been had I been homeless the entire semester and not able to commute to Raleigh at least partially. My question is: Where are the resources on campus for those students that struggle to find affordable housing? Where could I have gone for guidance and support when I saw this coming? I believe if you admit a student with financial need, which Elon wants to do more of in the future, you should see them through, and make sure they receive enough financial and academic support to graduate.
Elon prides itself on being a residential campus. We’ve spent millions of dollars creating one. But if we have the facilities and not the resources to provide access to those facilities, that’s not something to be proud of. We are missing something from our Elon Commitment. This is not me waving my finger at University officials and administrators for letting this happen. This is a wake-up call. There are students at Elon who are homeless and need the support of their institution in order to finish their education. This is me saying, please, pay attention to your students; genuinely care about where they sleep at night, because if they are here, but are not set up for success, you do them a disservice, not a favor.
Read the published article online. There’s also an audio interview if you want to hear how weird my voice sounds when recorded. Readers, I want to know what your reaction to and thoughts on this subject are! Comment below!